Corruption and Scandal Surrounds O'Hare Expansion

CHICAGO -- Federal prosecutors have indicted Chris Kelly, president and owner of BCI Commercial Roofing, accusing him and his company of paying at least $450,000 in kickbacks to a consultant. It was allegedly part of a scheme to fraudulently obtain $8.5 million in inflated contracts for projects. Last night, prosecutors said the projects dealt with two major airlines, United and American, at O'Hare International Airport. Kelly was the chief fundraiser in Rod Blagojevich's two campaigns for governor and both Kelly and former Governor Blagojevich were strong supporters of the O'Hare Modernization Program (OMP).

"Sadly this is business as usual with the OMP project; kick backs, corruption and special favors and money for political cronies," said Bensenville Village President John Geils. "I'm just one of many who have seen this project for what it is, a $20 billion boondoggle designed to raise funds and reward politician's friends with financial gain."

The O'Hare Modernization Project has been criticized for fundamental design flaws, including planes having an additional 45 minute taxi time due to major airport choke points, long rides between terminals - often longer than the scheduled time of a flight - and baggage transfer issues from one terminal to the next. Air Traffic Control experts have also questioned the overall safety of the plan.

"I find it ironic that the two major O'Hare airlines who objected to continuing the OMP plan were also the victims of this kickback scheme," said Terry Brunner of the Aviation Integrity Project. "O'Hare Airport has been the source for years of corruption schemes and illegal endeavors and the modernization program sits squarely in the middle of a lot of that kind of activity."

Joe Karaganis, a local attorney who battled the City of Chicago against the O'Hare Management Program, commented, "An impeached governor supported the OMP project, a jailed former governor supported the OMP project and who knows how many other objects of federal investigation were part of the corruption that takes place surrounding the airport and OMP. I know this it certainly another reason to reconsider what is easily the most absurd, expensive and useless waste of $20 billion in taxpayer funds anyone has ever seen."

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